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Backpacking: A Different Way of Camping

What is camping? To most people, it is perceived as a time to pack up the car,

drive to local camp grounds, and spend the weekend in the great outdoors. It is

a time to frolic with family and friends around a campfire, singing songs,

playing games, and roasting marshmallows while listening to ghost stories that

can only be heard while camping. However, to the avid backpacker, camping takes

on a different perspective. While experiencing the great outdoors is very

similar to car camping, backpacking is very different in many respects.

Preparation for backpacking and car camping and the locales where one can set up

camp are very different. In either case, experiencing the great outdoors and

its natural beauty cannot be surpassed. With car camping the only real

limitation is one’s vehicle. A person is limited to the vehicle’s capacity to

carry or tow. For example, a camper will bring a stove, a twelve man tent, two

coolers of meat and potatoes, five gallons of water, and maybe tow a camper. On

the other hand, when backpacking, the circumstances are very different. One is

limited to his or her own capabilities: the amount of weight that can be

carried, endurance levels, just to name a few. Provisions must be carefully

measured. If overloaded, it can affect performance while hiking to one’s

destination, but if not enough provisions are carried it, will impact how long

one can last out in the wilderness. The equipment must be minute in size and

weight. Special lightweight stoves, tents, sleeping bags, and clothes must be

used when backpacking. The average weight of a full backpack is about thirty-

five pounds. A camper is completely dependent on what is in his or her backpack

to survive in nature. Reaching one’s final destination for car camping and

backpacking are also very different. To get to the campsite while car camping,

one follows a road map to the park, drives to the ranger station, picks up a

pass, and pulls in to the campsite. Depending on the size of the park, there

are usually fifty to one hundred campsites filled with weekend warriors. While

backpacking, reaching the campsite is a greater task. First, the backpacker

enters the park, gets a pass from the ranger station, and drives to the

trailhead. At the trailhead one loads his or her gear in the backpack and

firmly attaches it to their waist and back. Finally, the backpackers hikes two

to twelve miles to reach their destination, following a topographical map and

utilizing a compass. If one is fortunate, there will be someone camping at the

same site. Backpacking is usually done by oneself or in a group. Going to the

restroom is also very different in both cases. For one, there are no portable

restrooms while backpacking. A shovel and toilet paper are a backpacker’s only

means. One picks a spot, digs a hole, and squats. It is a very peaceful

experience with the birds chirping, the wind blowing, and trees swaying. While

car camping, there is usually a communal restroom that almost always smells of

disinfectants or deodorants. Car camping and backpacking are two forms of

camping that differ from each other in the respect that backpacking is a more

independent form of camping. If one feels like escaping the city just for a few

days, one can hop into a car and drive to a campground. It is relatively easy

to prepare for car camping, but backpacking is much more rigorous and requires

much planning. Though more limiting in what one can carry, backpacking allows a

person to see the outdoors in a way that car camping cannot. The most beautiful

sights are seen while backpacking, and this is because a car can only take one

so far. Most backpackers experience something that most car campers will never

see: the beauty of nature untouched by common man. Regardless of the mode of

exploring the great outdoors, an exciting adventure awaits.

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